16 July 2017
After a morning rubbing down the tangerine paintwork in our living room, turning myself into something resembling the tango monster in the process, it was a relief to get out of the house this afternoon. It was also something of a relief that the good weather held for the Itchen Spitfires Summer Social. An afternoon sitting on a wet blanket in Victoria Country Park wouldn’t have been too appealing.
For once we were a little late. Mostly due to me scrubbing off all the tangerine paint dust. Everything was set up when we arrived. The park was filled with gazebos (glad I didn’t have to put them up after the debacle at Wyvern), picnic blankets and folding chairs. It was also filled with Spitfires, barely recognisable in civilian clothes. We put up our own folding chairs, set down our hastily cobbled together picnic and went for a wander to see who we could spot.
This took quite some time because I kept stopping to take photos and talk to people. Somehow, over the last year and a bit, since I’ve been writing their newsletter and taking photos at races, I’ve managed to get to know almost every one of the Spitfires there. If they were running I’d probably know them from their gait, I’d also be able to give a fairly accurate prediction of the order they’d finish a race. How on earth did that happen?
Every face was smiling. There was every kind of picnic food imaginable spread out on blankets or in baskets. For finely tuned athletes, there seemed to be a great deal of alcohol about and more than a little junk food in the variety of cool boxes and picnic baskets. Some Spitfires were a touch more cultured than others though. I even spotted real cutlery and plates, now that’s what I call a proper posh picnic. There was, of course, a fair bit of sharing going on and my own tin of chocolate brownies disappeared at a rate of knots. Maybe if they’d known they were made with beetroot and had zero sugar they wouldn’t have been so keen.
Out on the field a game of football was going on. This was meant to be a friendly game but, of course, runners are all so competitive there was no way it could be anything but serious. Watching from the sidelines, a little girl in a pink tutu looked slightly out of place and made me chuckle. Eventually the game ended and all the players came back to join the picnickers. Who won is a mystery.
There was plenty to keep the little ones and the adults who wanted to be active busy. Someone had brought along an archery set with nice safe suckers on the ends of the arrows. This proved popular. There were also bubbles and wooden blocks that may or may not have been meant to be a giant game of Jenga.
Then it was time for the raffle. Last year Commando won so many prizes it was embarrassing. Admittedly, we gave half of them away but still. This year he won just one, ironically it was one of the bottles of wine he donated.
Next came the highlight of the afternoon, the tug of war. Actually there were lots of tugs of war, beginning with the children. When it came to the adults things got predictably competitive again. There was a certain amount of cheating going on. Eventually, after so many bouts (if that’s what you call them) Rachel was declared Queen of Tug of War. This may or may not have had something to do with a slight wardrobe malfunction that occurred in the heat of the battle. A few of the male competitors lost concentration and the ladies took full advantage. Luckily I was behind her at this point so there are no embarrassing photos.
Around about then the ice cream van arrived and there was a mass dash to form a queue. Ice cream was just the thing after all that hard tug of war work and I’m sure the ice cream man did a roaring trade.
Finally, when all the little ones were suitably filled with ice cream, Gill organised games. Last year I’d fallen asleep by this point. In my defence I had walked (and run a little but don’t tell Commando for goodness sakes) the Race For Life 10k that morning and it was very hot. This year I got to witness the full fun of the children’s water balloon races. The concentration on all the little faces was a joy to behold. When the water balloons ran out Amelia chased everyone around with the water left in the box they’d come in.
As afternoon slowly drifted into evening the field began to empty. One by one people packed up their chairs and picnic baskets and said their goodbyes. Eventually just the hardy few were left, slightly reluctant for the fun to end. Commando and I were amongst them. It had been a fabulous afternoon, thanks to Amanda and Amelia who’d worked so hard behind the scenes organising everything and setting it all up. We can hardly wait for the next one.
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